sanctions Mexican soccer hero Rafa Marquez for alleged drug ties
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[August 10, 2017]
By Gabriel Stargardter
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The U.S.
Treasury Department said on Wednesday it sanctioned major Mexican
soccer star Rafael "Rafa" Marquez and more than 20 others for
suspected links with an accused drug kingpin, tarnishing the
reputation of one of Mexico's sporting giants.
Marquez, 38, along with a popular singer known as Julion Alvarez and
nearly two dozen other Mexican nationals, is accused of financial
ties with Raul Flores Hernandez, a suspected drug trafficker with
links to the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation gang.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the designation was "the largest
single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel network that
OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control) has designated," and
comes after U.S. President Donald Trump promised to crush Mexico's
"Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his
longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of
financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug
proceeds," OFAC Director John E. Smith said in a statement, calling
the move a "major joint action" with Mexico.
Maquez denied the accusations in a news conference Wednesday evening
and vowed to cooperate with authorities.
"I deny categorically any type of relation with this organization,"
he said. "I understand the legal situation in which I find myself,
and I will immediately focus my energy on the clarification of the
facts with the support of my team of lawyers."
Marquez gave a voluntary declaration before the Mexican attorney
general's office on Wednesday, the office said in a statement.
Marquez, who hails from the cartel-riddled state of Michoacan, is
one of the country's best know sportsmen and has played in Europe
for club sides FC Barcelona and Monaco. He still occasionally
captains the Mexican national team, having represented his country
in four World Cup soccer tournaments.
According to documents on the Treasury's website, Marquez was linked
to Flores Hernandez's organization via a football school called
Escuela de Futbol Rafael Marquez as well as various other sports and
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Mexican soccer star Rafael "Rafa" Marquez attends a news conference
in Guadalajara, Mexico, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
Marquez's current team, Club Atlas in Guadalajara,
could not immediately be reached for comment.
The U.S. Treasury said it had sanctioned 43 entities linked to
Flores Hernandez's holdings, from sectors including sport,
hospitality and tourism and health.
Julio Cesar Alvarez, more commonly known as Julion Alvarez, is a
popular "banda" singer. In a folksy video posted to his official
Facebook page, Alvarez, 34, rejected the accusations against him.
"Everything I have, I've earned," he said. "I dedicated myself to
making music, and thank God, I don't have the necessity to do many
of the things they're accusing me of."
He added that he knew Marquez, and may invite him to join forces
legally to defend themselves against the accusations.
In an awkward twist, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had posted
a photo of himself with Alvarez to his Instagram page this week, but
deleted it just before news of the sanctions against Alvarez broke.
A spokesman from the president's office declined to comment on why
the photo was deleted.
Trump vowed to dismantle transnational crime groups in a February
executive order. Little change in strategy has been seen so far,
although there are some signs of increased cooperation with Mexican
(Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Julia Love and Carlos
Pacheco; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)
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